To the common man in this country, a political leader seems to have a face, a voice and body language only on the campaign trail. Things change once he is elected to the legislature, or even better for him, when he gets into government. Red-light convoys and bulletproof glasses then inevitably separate the leader from the masses. From Day One since he took over as prime minister, rendra Modi has sought to break through this barrier. After all, his predecessor suffered as parliament squabbled; it was sad to see Dr Manmohan Singh, so highly regarded by other tiol leaders for his scholarship, turn into a distant figure for his own countrymen. rendra Modi has the advantage of oratorical skill, though his tone and timbre is much different from the other NDA prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee whose wit and poetic flourishes were legendary. To his credit, PM Modi has relied on technology to focus on content. The country’s government arises from its legislature, and remains answerable to it. But it makes eminent sense for those leading the government to devise an effective public outreach. Prime Minister Modi has been reaching out to citizens on governce through his monthly radio addresses, which in turn is re-energizing the vast but moribund Prasar Bharati network. In his latest ‘Mann Ki Baat’ address to the tion, he dwelt at length on diverse issues ranging from internet and phone frauds, free check-ups for pregnt women, floods in the country and the need to innovate to stay ahead in the technology race. He even sought suggestions from listeners about issues he can take up in his forthcoming Independence Day speech. This should come as no surprise, for rendra Modi in the past has used social media, 3D holographic images and giant LCD screens to score in the hustings.
To elicit and collect feedback from the people, Prime Minister Modi launched a portal MyGov in 2014. The interactive platform has over 35 lakh members, contributing ideas and views on hundreds of governce themes. The government is pushing the MyGov team to set a target of at least 10-15 crore users in near future, so it pulled out all stops to make a grand success of the portal’s second anniversary on Saturday. A new PMO app was launched to eble mobile phone users to connect directly with the Prime Minister’s website. PM Modi used this occasion to connect with citizens through another countrywide interactive platform, a hi-tech virtual townhall for the first time. Participants were selected from regular MyGov users to put up queries which the PM fielded. In his townhall address, the PM touched on issues like targeting more than 8 percent growth for thirty years, ‘last mile delivery’ to take welfare schemes to intended beneficiaries, a tiol health insurance policy for all citizens, an ‘India First’ foreign policy, opening up the defence sector to create jobs, and the RURBAN mission to make selected villages ‘smart’ like cities. PM Modi also spoke about governments tailoring policies only to win the next election, while the citizen’s role has remained limited to voting. But times are a-changing, empowerment is the way to go, and savvy leaders are cultivating social media followings to stay in the public loop. Hopefully, if the townhall platform becomes ubiquitous in the coming years, it will help heads of governments reach out above the legislature to the governed. This should not give rise to misgivings, rather, legislatures too have on occasions sought informed public opinion in making laws. The days of British Raj era ‘sarkar mai-baap’ is becoming an achronism; if government leaders and lawmakers do not nurture public outreach, they risk public disconnect which won’t do their political careers any good.